With the development of modern, durable outdoor fabrics, outdoor decorating is now just as much fun as interior decorating. From bold stripes to tropical prints and sophisticated black and white patterns, there is a vast and exciting range of designs to choose from for your outdoor patio cushions.
Though there are durable, weatherproof cushions that are specifically designed for use on garden furniture and outdoor sofas, we need to know how to clean outdoor patio cushions as they still need cleaning from time to time to keep them well-maintained and looking bright and fresh.
Most outdoor cushions are made from solution-dyed acrylics and are rated ‘weatherproof’. Some cushions intended for outdoor designer furniture are made from spun polyester or vinyl. All should be filled with reticulated foam, a porous material that allows the cushion to dry far more quickly after getting wet.
To ensure your cushions remain in great shape and continue to complement your outdoor contemporary furniture, you will need to clean them regularly. Start by sweeping off any dust or debris with a soft bristle brush before vacuuming each cushion, especially along the seams where mildew and mold are more likely to grow.
Here are some helpful tips on how to clean outdoor patio cushions to help deal with any problems that may arise when cleaning your outdoor cushions:
1. Spot cleaning stains
- For liquid stains, blot with a clean, dry cloth and be careful not to rub. If the spill is oil-based (such as salad dressing), apply something absorbent (corn starch is ideal) then remove with a flat instrument such as a spatula.
- Next, spray the stain with a mild detergent mixed with warm water.
- Rinse the entire cushion thoroughly to remove all soapy residue and air-dry in sunlight.
2. Cleaning deep, stubborn stains
One of the most common causes of staining on outdoor fabrics is bird droppings. These should be wiped clean as soon as possible. If a bird dropping has left a mark while you have been absent, however, you may have to take more drastic action.
- Prepare a solution of mild soap mixed with lukewarm water.
- Use a soft bristle brush and rub gently, ensuring the solution soaks into the fabric.
- Rinse the entire cushion thoroughly to get rid of any soapy residue, then air-dry in sunlight.
3. Removing mold and mildew
If your cushions are placed in the shade, move them out into the sun to help protect them from mold and mildew. If mold and mildew do appear:
- Prepare a solution consisting of one cup bleach and ¼ cup mild soap mixed with a 3½ – 4 liters of lukewarm water.
- Place some of the solution in a spray bottle and spray the entire surface of your cushions. Allow the solution to soak into the fabric for at least 15 minutes.
- Wipe down each cushion with a sponge or a clean, dry towel.
- Rinse the entire cushion thoroughly to get rid of any soap residue the air-dry in sunlight.
If you are not able to entirely remove mold and mildew, you may have to repeat the process using a stronger bleach solution. Most outdoor fabrics can be treated with a diluted bleach solution, but be wary: it’s best to check with the manufacturer before using a stronger solution to ensure you won’t damage the fabric.
A good idea is to test the bleach solution on a small part of the cushion to make sure it doesn’t discolor or fade the fabric. It is not advised to put cushions and other outdoor fabrics in the washing machine, as it can damage the fabric or break the seams.
If you have a pool and use cushions on your pool deck, these are likely to get oily stains from sunscreen and other lotions. Try to attend to any such oil-based spills straight away: the longer you leave them, the harder they will be to remove completely.
Solution-dyed acrylics are highly resistant to the effects of ultra-violet rays and color degradation. This is because the fiber is dyed prior to being made into yarn and woven to make fabric. Outdoor fabrics are therefore durable and colourfast, but they will still eventually fade if left in direct sunlight. With regular maintenance, your outdoor cushions should stay looking good for at least 5-10 years.
Spun polyester is available in more vibrant patterns, but it is more prone to fading than solution-dyed acrylic fabric. If your cushions are made from spun polyester, it’s best to keep them covered or stow them away in an outdoor or under seat storage box when not in use. Alternatively, you can place your teak furniture or other outdoor furniture in a shady position in the garden.
Facing water issues
While outdoor fabrics are largely water resistant, it’s best not to let them get waterlogged in rainy weather. Outdoor cushions made using reticulated foam can be left on their side in rainy weather to allow the water to drain off.
If your cushions do get saturated, place them seam-side down to allow the water to drain out. If the covers have zippers, unzip them and allow the form inside to dry completely before using the cushions again.
An extra precaution is to have the foam inside your cushions wrapped in ethylene-methyl acrylate film, which will help prevent the foam from getting wet in the first place.
If you live in a climate with harsh winters, it’s best to store your cushions for your outdoor furniture and sofas away at the end of the summer season. This is the best time to give them a clean and let them dry thoroughly before putting them away. Further, protect your cushions by placing them in waterproof bags before storing them away for the winter months. By spring, they’ll be fresh and ready to brighten up your outdoor living spaces once again.